In the past couple of years, contemporary artists working in Britain have shifted from the gallery space into the cinematic. Almost seamlessly, they have transformed their experience with artist moving images (video, film, and even photograph) into the production of features films…and to much critical success!

We’ve already talked about Steve McQueen here on the blog so let’s take a look at a few of the artists in the UK who are crafting a new creative language in contemporary cinema.

In his first feature film Two Years at Sea (2011 16mm), Ben Rivers captures the beauty in the unconventional life of Jake, a man who lives alone in the Scottish forest. Revisiting Jake as the subject from his 2006 artist film This is My Land, Rivers employs, “seemingly obsolete handcrafted and hand-processed film techniques, including 16mm CinemaScope, Rivers alludes to and critiques a tradition of poetic ethnography that dates back to the 1930s and 1940s” (MoMA) to create a compelling and poetic portrait.

Winner of the FIPRESCI Prize (Critics’ Week and Horizons sections), Venice Film Festival 2011. Highlight of the New York, Toronto, and London Film Festivals. Watch this video of Ben and Jake at the BFI screening.

1997 Turner Prize winning artist and part of the YBA (Young British Art) group in late 1990s London, Gillian Wearing transformed her interest in identity, revelation, fact and fiction in her first feature film, Self Made (2010). Straddling the line of art and movie, Self Made stems from an ad placed by Wearing in the paper to attract the films “actors”. It’s best said on the film’s website, “A hybrid undertaking, Self Made is at once documentary, artwork, social experiment and performance project – bringing together a diverse group from the British public, non-actors every one, and offering them a chance to discover something about themselves through performance.”

Artist Sam Taylor Wood, best known for her very intimate short films and photography tackled a British Institution (the Beatles) when she made Nowhere Boy (2009), a touching biopic based on the formative days of John Lennon. Related though not British: photographer Anton Corbijn’s Control based on Joy Division’s Ian Curtis (Corbijn then directed dreamy George Clooney in The American).